Pol­lu­tion, lit­ter­ing, butts are not beyond our con­trol

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey [email protected]­gar­rynews.ca

Some is­sues raised in the pages of The News re­cently un­der­score the po­ten­tial for in­di­vid­u­als to make a dif­fer­ence, even though the chal­lenges may seen daunt­ing. Take lit­ter­ing, cig­a­rette butts and dirty wa­ter, please. In our Au­gust 7 edi­tion, we re­ported on Mylène Poirier’s frus­tra­tion with the “as­ton­ish­ing” volume of trash that is be­ing dumped on public prop­erty in Alexn­dria.

“I take walks almost ev­ery day and I am very sur­prised at all the peo­ple who throw garbage out the win­dow or throw garbage on the ground as they walk. I try to pick some garbage up as I walk but I can­not keep up since the amount is as­ton­ish­ing,” she wrote. “What are those peo­ple think­ing? Don’t they know about an­i­mals chok­ing on plas­tic? How about be­ing civil and be­ing re­spon­si­ble and just wait­ing to find a garbage can?”

Ev­ery­one would agree with the sen­ti­ments ex­pressed by Ms. Poirier, who notes that the most com­mon cul­prits seem to be fast­food restau­rant cus­tomers.

Gov­ern­ments can­not oblige peo­ple to be­have prop­erly, how­ever, cer­tain ac­tions by the State might mit­i­gate the lit­ter­ing prob­lem. For ex­am­ple, a com­mon lament in Alexan­dria has been that there aren’t enough garbage re­cep­ta­cles on Main Street. While North Glen­garry could al­ways put out more bins, that move will not guar­an­tee that lit­ter­ers will ac­tu­ally use them.

While ir­re­spon­si­ble peo­ple are a mi­nor­ity, the ac­tions of the in­con­sid­er­ate few can have a big im­pact on the rest of us, ob­vi­ously.

An ap­peal to civic pride, to do the right thing, may might en­cour­age th­ese lit­ter­ing louts to think twice be­fore toss­ing their trash onto a street or curb or into a ditch. But, lit­ter­ers rarely think and cer­tainly have no sense of pride. The good news is that the lit­ter­ing louts are out­num­bered. Most peo­ple do not lit­ter and in fact many rou­tinely pick up af­ter the of­fend­ers.

Since ac­tions speak louder than words, per­haps the deeds of the con­sci­en­tious will even­tu­ally be em­u­lated by the per­pe­tra­tors. Those who now toss trash on public prop­erty may some day see the light and help clean up our lit­tle cor­ner of the world. Hey, a per­son can dream, right? An­other but less per­va­sive scourge is the pre­pon­der­ance of cig­a­rette butts.

Dis­carded to­bacco fil­ters are less nu­mer­ous be­cause fewer peo­ple are smok­ing cig­a­rettes and many who still need and/or want nico­tine hits have switched to dif­fer­ent ad­dic­tions, such as vap­ing.

Still, as we re­ported in our July 17 edi­tion, the con­ven­tional cig­a­rette has the du­bi­ous dis­tinc­tion of be­ing Canada’s most com­mon form of lit­ter.

Alexan­dria en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist Deb­o­rah Wad­dell is hop­ing to do some­thing about this prob­lem by urg­ing busi­nesses and or­ga­ni­za­tions to ac­quire “Zero Waste Boxes” dis­trib­uted by Ter­ra­Cy­cle,

a Toronto firm that re­cy­cles the “non-re­cy­clable.”

As she ob­served, “A lot of peo­ple do not look at cig­a­rette butts as be­ing plas­tic.” The fil­ters are com­posed of cel­lu­lose ac­etate, a type of plas­tic that is also found in eye­glass frames, play­ing cards and film. Since the zero waste con­tain­ers come with pre-paid UPS ship­ping la­bels, no postage is paid when the boxes are full and are re­turned to Ter­ra­Cy­cle, where the butts will be re­cy­cled.

“I see a lot of butts on side­walks and in streets, even though em­ploy­ers do pro­vide butt con­tain­ers for their em­ploy­ees,” says Ms. Wad­dell.

A fright­en­ing fact: About 40 per cent of used butts get flicked into the en­vi­ron­ment.

A good first move could be eas­ily taken by North Glen­garry Town­ship, which ought to en­dorse Ms. Wad­dell’s sug­ges­tion that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity buy a butt box. The pur­chase would send a mes­sage, pro­vide a photo op­por­tu­nity for politi­cians and make public areas just a lit­tle more invit­ing to all those tourists North Glen­garry is striv­ing to at­tract.

What a beach!

Un­for­tu­nately, on two oc­ca­sions this sum­mer, The News has had to re­port that high bac­te­ria lev­els have caused the clo­sure of Alexan­dria's Is­land Park beach.

There are many fac­tors that con­trib­ute to wa­ter pol­lu­tion, how­ever, bac­te­ria numbers tend to rise fol­low­ing heavy rain­falls, when a cock­tail of con­tam­i­nants is flushed into bod­ies of wa­ter.

For­tu­nately, those who are des­per­ate to beat the heat can cool off at the splash pad west of the Sand­field Cen­tre in Is­land Park.

But a splash pad is not the same as a sandy wa­ter­front beach, which in re­cent years has been a cleaner place to linger due to the suc­cess of North Glen­garry’s ef­forts to shoo away Canada geese. A flock still hangs around in the sum­mer, but the numbers, and drop­pings, have been greatly cur­tailed in the last few years.

Of course the beach tends to be shut dur­ing the height of heat waves.

What can a per­son do to keep public areas clean? Col­lec­tively, we could mit­i­gate con­tam­i­na­tion by en­sur­ing that we are not un­wit­tingly con­tribut­ing to the foul flow that af­fects wa­ter qual­ity.

As the Eastern On­tario Health Unit puts it: “An el­e­vated bac­te­ria den­sity in the wa­ter is the ma­jor cause of post­ings. The most com­mon bac­te­ria is E. coli, which may in­di­cate the pres­ence of fe­cal co­l­iforms (FC), an or­gan­ism that ex­ists in the fe­ces of vir­tu­ally all warm-blooded an­i­mals.”

It is no sur­prise that hu­man and an­i­mal wastes be­come prob­lem­atic when they end up in bathing areas.

Prob­lems such as pol­lu­tion and lit­ter­ing will be con­stant chal­lenges. Th­ese is­sues will never be to­tally re­solved, but that does not mean we can’t do some­thing about them.

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